File:Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01.jpg

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The Gutenberg Bible

[Bible, Latin Vulgate. Ca. 1455]. Biblia Latina. [Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1455]. Rare Books Division. From the Lenox Library

The first substantial printed book is this royal-folio two-volume Bible, comprising nearly 1,300 pages, printed in Mainz on the central Rhine by Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1390s-1468) in the 1450s. It was probably completed between March 1455 and November of that year, when Gutenberg's bankruptcy deprived him of his printing establishment and the fruits of his achievements.

The Bible epitomizes Gutenberg's triumph, arguably the greatest achievement of the second millennium. Forty-eight integral copies survive, including eleven on vellum. Perhaps some 180 copies were originally produced, including about 45 on vellum. The Lenox copy, on paper, is the first Gutenberg Bible to come to the United States, in 1847. Its arrival is the stuff of romantic national folklore. James Lenox's European agent issued Instructions for New York that the officers at the Customs House were to remove their hats on seeing it: the privilege of viewing a Gutenberg Bible is vouchsafed to few.

(Shortened text copied from placard seen in the background)

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